If you've been paying attention to the Bytes from the World of Retail Tech portion of this newsletter, you've probably noticed the same thing I have.
Stories about digital retailing upending traditional brick-and-mortar stores — in pretty much all sectors — seem like a weekly occurrence.
And a recurring theme over the months is that of big-box stores having to pivot to online sales — some overhauling their store footprints, partially closing operations or even going bankrupt.
Last week, The New York Times reported that two Macy's department stores in Delaware and Colorado halted in-store shopping and put its employees to work in what were instead essentially fulfillment centers for online sales. The article framed the shift to digital amid the coronavirus pandemic as watching the retail evolution and its broader impact on the economy "on fast forward."
This kind of news can sound bleak for traditional retailers. But at about the same time as the Times report, the National Retail Federation was projecting a rise in holiday sales to close out 2020, thanks to an expected jump of up to 30 percent in online and nonstore sales. The forecast excludes automobile dealerships, gas stations and restaurants.
A couple of things are apparent to me:
One: We already know retail auto sales have recovered handsomely in the back half of this year.
And two: All these non-auto brick-and-mortar retailers struggling with their physical realms as the world increasingly goes digital are lacking an important piece of business that new-vehicle dealerships have: service and reconditioning.
Aside from the oft-noted fact that many people are still not comfortable buying large-ticket items such as cars sight unseen, franchised dealers have a big advantage over even the digital newcomers to the auto space because of their well-established service operations.
And along with that, as more people become comfortable buying things online, traditional dealers can just sell more vehicles online — many are already doing so — while still benefiting from their relevant physical assets.
When looking at digital retailing developments this way, these times seem not only less bleak but ripe with opportunity.